As a freshman on a talent-packed Buchanan High girls cross country team that claimed its third state championship last season, Elle Lomelí played a key role.
Lomelí, who placed eighth as the top freshman finisher at the state meet, returned to Woodward Park with familiar teammates on a 2-mile course at Saturday’s Fleet Feet Summer Sizzle.
Her role has become one of the main cogs for a cross country team that is ranked second nationally. Her goal was to break 11 minutes on Saturday.
Lomelí clocked 10:55, just behind senior teammate Sydney Sundgren (10:53), in the girls division.
In the race that kicked off the area cross country season, all boys and girls from middle, intermediate, and high schools ran together.
“It’s a cool opportunity. You don’t really know who’s behind you, a guy or a girl,” said Lomelí. “When you are just racing girls, you know the person right behind you is an actual competitor and you want to do the best you can.”
With Sundgren and Lomelí leading the way, the Buchanan girls ran away with the team title with 17 points. Clovis North was a distant second with 55 points. Clovis East was third with 63 points.
Buchanan freshmen Kynzlee Buckley (fourth in 10:56) and Taylor Torosian (fifth in 11:00) helped. Senior Caroline Mendyk was sixth in 11:00.
That youth keeps Buchanan’s veteran runners on their feet.
“We knew each other in middle school, we grew up together,” said Lomelí. “Knowing that, it kind of helps us bond and then that will transfer into our running.
“We should have a really strong team this year.”
Head coach Brian Weaver believes “it’s not necessarily pressure” for Buchanan to enter the season as a top-ranked team.
“They have their goals as a team, and they’re working really hard to achieve those goals,” said Weaver.
Newer runners, he added, “changes the dynamics. So far, it’s been outstanding with all the girls really blending together as one.”
Weaver welcomed back six of the seven state meet runners from last year. Grace Hutchison, a senior, did not run Saturday but Weaver expects her to be back in a couple of weeks.
“It’s going to be pretty challenging to make our top seven this year just within our girls team,” he said.
Lomelí, who focused on the 800-meter race during track, is looking forward to a successful cross country season.
“We have high expectations on our team, and we are held to high standards every single day at practice races,” said Lomelí. “It motivates us because we want to continue to succeed.”
The key, she said, is “we trust our coaches, training and teammates.”
Clovis North senior Ashlyn was fourth in 10:59.
Annalise LaTour won the open race in 13:56.
Clovis North won the junior varsity team title with 22 points. Clovis North sophomore Italia Pérez won the JV race in 12:27.
Alta Sierra, which feeds into Buchanan High, won the middle school title with 16 points. Seventh-grader Brooklyn Buckley won that race in 11:47.